Visit Marsala, the Sicilian town on a lagoon

marsala-piazza-della-repubblicaDear traveller, today I have wanted to leave the East of Sicily for a while, because I want to provide you with information to visit a beautiful place in the Western part of Sicily. This place is Marsala. The town is located in the most western part of my island. Its territory is wild and pretty at the same time, with a strong historical background. Indeed, Marsala is the famous location of the landing of Garibaldi’s Thousand in 1860, an historical event that marked the reunification process in Italy. This town is also famous for a much flavoured wine called with its same name. These are not the only reasons to visit Marsala, there are many more and I want you to discover them in the follow paragraphs.

Tourist information

marsala-florio-winerieAs I said, Marsala is the most western tip of Sicily, called Capo Boeo or Cape Lilybeo. It is protected by Erice from a side and from Segesta and Selinunte from the other side. The town is in front of the Aegadian islands, that you can reach by boat in 20 minutes. Thanks to over 8 thousand hectares of vineyard, Marsala is the most important Sicilian producer of white and red wine and of the famous Marsala wine. It has over 80 thousand inhabitants and is included in the district of Trapani. Its favourable position lets you reach other wonderful touristic places, such as Selinunte and Segesta, Erice, Castelvetrano, Pantelleria, Aegadian islands and the same chief town of Trapani, which is the seat of an unforgettable natural reserve, the tonnara and the salt pans. Natural reserve and salt pans are also in Marsala. It is as if this town stole a bit of beauty to Trapani and vice versa. In addition to the chief town of this province, Marsala is a place where you can admire baroque churches, museums, wonderful beaches and taste healthy and organic Sicilian food. Defined a “ legendary land in the heart of the Mediterranean sea”, Marsala was inhabited by Phoenicians, Romans and Arabs. The last domination gave the name to this town, namely Marsa Allah (the harbour of God) or Marsa Alì. The famous wine of Marsala was discovered in 1773 by English businessman John Woodhouse, who was the first person to export Marsala wine out of Sicily and Italy. In the following years, Marsala wine was exported by Italian family Florio ( see the image). In the Sicilian dialect the town is called Massiala (this dialect is very similar to the one in Palermo).

What to do in Marsala

If you visit Marsala, I suggest that you do a tour in three important areas of the town, namely:

  • The downtown with churches, museum and important historical alleys.
  • The Northern zone, where you can visit a natural reserve called the island of Stagnone, the mills, the salt pans of Marsala and the island of Mozia, an archaeological site that you can also admire from the coast of this Sicilian town.
  • The Southern zone, where you can sunbathe in wonderful sandy beaches.

Visit Marsala downtown

porta-garibaldi-marsalaIn the downtown, from the main square of Piazza della Repubblica, which is the architectural heart of Marsala ( see the first image of the first paragraph), you can see the baroque cathedral and the Palace VII April 1860. This was the palace in which Giuseppe Garibaldi was appointed as the governor of Sicily in May, 11,1860, soon after the landing of the Thousand. Always in the downtown, you can also admire the mythical Porta Garibaldi ( see the image), an arched entrance where Garibaldi entered after the landing.  In 1860, it was called Porta di Mare because near the port where the landing of Garibaldi’s thousand took place. Porta Garibaldi is in Mameli square (Piazza Mameli). You can reach it walking on the left of the cathedral, from Garibaldi street. Next to it, there is also the municipal palace. On the right of Porta Garibaldi, you can also see the external prospect of Addolorata Church, a religious building of XIII century. While you are in the downtown, don’t forget to reach the XI Maggio street, a main road also called Il Cassaro. This street is outfitted with bars, restaurants, hotels, clothes shops, ice cream parlours and jewellery stores, where you can also admire the best of the Sicilian art of jewellery. Surrounded by many precious and magnificent palaces, Il Cassaro is a beautiful street to be seen and walked. The walk on this road is also called “ a cassariata” in Sicilian. You don’t forget to visit also the magnificent baroque church of the Purgatory. The external façade of the Church is clearly baroque, with two side steeples. The Church is on the Sebastiano Cammareri Scurti street.

Visit Northern Marsala

Mozia-island-MarsalaIn the Northern zone, there is the island of Stagnone. This is a nature reserve located in shallow lagoon called “Stagnone”. This is the largest lagoon of Sicily and includes four islands: the archaeological site of Mozia, now called San Pantaleo, Schola, Santa Maria and Isola grande. The nature reserve stretches the shoreline of Marsala, in front of the Aegadian islands and up to Trapani city. Along this shoreline, in the XV century, the salt pans were built.  You can see them while you are visiting the nature reserve (see the image). The reserve also contains towering mills used to mill salt and for pumping water. The island of Stagnone is a magical place. The landscape is very evocative and breathtaking, with a very rare beauty. Its sunset is as unforgettable as its colours. The slow waves of the waters softly move the fishing boats and while you feel the scent of the sea, new emotions come into your heart. In this natural environment, there are many species of protected fishes. Indeed, hunting and fishing with nets are forbidden. Sometimes, it is possible to do sport fishing with line. This nature reserve is also a real paradise for those who are interested in ornithology, because during the summer and the autumn, many species of migratory birds make a stop to the islands of the lagoon. Here you can see: Italian knights, wild ducks, herons and white or pink flamingos. The Stagnone nature reserve is also filled with a lush green, such as dwarf palm, juniper and salicornie. On the island of Schola, you can also see Aleppo pine forest. You can visit the four islands of the lagoon daily, thanks to transfers by boat. The Stagnone nature reserve is also an important occasion to visit the island of Mozia. This was the ancient place inhabited by the Phoenicians in 300 B C. Mozia is also the archaeological pearl of Marsala. In 397, the Phoenicians were massacred by the tyrant of Syracuse and the few survivors escaped to the promontory of Capo Boeo, where they refounded Lilybeo, namely Marsala. Hence, Mozia is the ancient Marsala. Many archaeological findings of this glorious past are kept on the Archaeological Museum Baglio, where is also exposed an ancient boat used during the Punic wars between the Romans and the Carthaginians. The museum is on the seafront of Marsala, next to the promontory of Capo Boeo. Since 2005, the Museum has also showed a valuable statue of Venus.

Visit Southern Marsala

salt-pans-marsalaIn the Southern zone, you can also enjoy fabulous Sicilian beaches. Indeed, Marsala lies over the sea and is embraced from these waters, which are crystal and blue and awarded with the blue flag by Europe. The beaches of Marsala are Punta Tramontana and Lido Signorino. They are both sandy and with clear waters. The first is near the Stagnone lagoon ( see the image), it is on the northern border of the lagoon, the second is in the most Southern tip of Marsala. This beach is well outfitted with facilities, summerhouses, and it is easy to be reached by car. If you love rocky beaches, you must go to Capo Boeo, a rocky promontory which has a little and a secluded sandy beach. Moreover, the seabed of Marsala is the gateway to Aegadian Islands. If you follow the coast, at a km of distance, there is the harbour to reach Favignana and Marettimo. On this occasion, you’ll also enjoy a pretty Sicilian cruise on the Mediterranean sea. From here, at three kms, you can reach the sandy beaches I mentioned above. You can stay here from June to September, to enjoy free beaches or equipped with delicious restaurants on the sea. However, I advise you visit Marsala city, the lagoon and the archaeological site, because the outfitted beaches can be very expensive and it is better to enjoy the ones of Marettimo and Favignana. Furthermore, in Marsala, weather is hot in summer and the season to enjoy the natural landscape of this town is surely from September, when the sun is less hot. On the seafront of this city, you can also visit the wineries in which Marsala wine is produced and bottled.

What to eat in Marsala
pomodori-marsaleseMarsala is the capital of the namesake wine and of delicious Sicilian dishes. Many of them are healthy and organic. The typical dishes are the flat bread with chicken stew and the famous Sicilian pastry named Cassata. This product, which challenges the Sicilian cannoli, comes just from Marsala. At the restaurants in Marsala you can also taste delicious dishes with fish, especially spaghetti and risotto seasoned with lobster and crayfish, pumpkin Sweet & Sour, tuna stew and the famous pomodori ( tomatoes) alla marsalese, baked and stuffed with green olives and crayfish.

How to reach Marsala

You can easily reach Marsala by plane. At the western of Sicily, indeed, there are two airports near Marsala. The one in Palermo (Punta Raisi) and the one in Trapani ( Trapani Birgi). The first is 73 kms from Marsala, while the second is only 13 kms from Marsala and near the Stagnone lagoon. If you can’t find a flight straight to Trapani airport from your country, land in Palermo and reach Trapani or Marsala by car or bus.

Hotels and accommodations in Marsala

marsala-hotel-carmineHotels and accommodations in Marsala have the good benefit to be affordable in any seasons. There are over 400 accommodations in the town, both in the center, out of the city and near the seafront. An historical hotel in the center of Marsala is Dimora di Charme Cassaro ( prices from 79 -166 euros a night), just 250 metres from the cathedral in the XI Maggio street. Here, you can eat typical dishes of Marsala and admire the charm of Marsala by night. You can reach this property just from the airport of Trapani in 20 minutes.

If you want to visit the Stagnone lagoon, you can also book  Baglio Cudia Resort (prices from 73 -141 euros a night), a pretty accommodation with swimming pool and near the untouched landscape of the Stagnone nature reserve

If you love the sea, you can also book Suitebeach B&B ( prices from 140 euros a night) on the beach of Lido Signorino, 10 minutes from Marsala , with a stunning view of a blue and crystal sea, modern rooms and wellness area.

To find other beautiful accommodations in this evocative town, you can also see this link.

 

Photocredits:

Featured image  Piazza della Repubblica – Netrekker

Image in the paragraph Visit Northern Marsala -Davide D’Amico

Pomodori alla Marsalese: buonissimo.org

Hotel Carmine Marsala – Seb.

 

11 thoughts on “Visit Marsala, the Sicilian town on a lagoon

    1. Rosalba

      Thank you so much Amanda, for appreciating my guide. I hope you’ll visit this destination, also.
      I am trying to do my best to provide good information about my loved Sicily.
      It is not easy, but your comment encouraged me to continue working.

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  4. Peter Greco

    Ciao tutti !! My father and I did western Sicily inApril 2019 and Marsala was my favorite. One night in the heart of the city and one night at a winery. A chocolate festive was awesome.The people young and old strolling at night was captivating.Can’t wait to return.

    1. Rosalba Mancuso Post author

      Hi Peter, thanks a lot for sharing your travel experience with my blog.
      I hope you’ll return visiting Marsala as soon as this challenging time has gone away!
      Sicily lovers deserve to admire back the fairy charm of beautiful villages like Marsala.
      The town is already waiting for you…

  5. Deneen Vitone

    Hi Rosalba. We are so excited to visit Sicily this summer. We plan on taking my 80-year-old mom to see where her father was born. Her grandmother migrated to the US after her husband passed at the age of 49. I am trying to find out where they actually lived? I was hoping you could put me in contact with someone that could help. I will definitely use your article to help us see Marsala. Thank you.

    1. Rosalba Mancuso Post author

      Hi Deneen,
      Thank you for sharing this news with my blog.
      As regards your request, you should get information through the municipality of Marsala, if your grandfather was born there.
      The offices are in 1 Garibaldi street, in Marsala. When you arrive there, this summer, talk to the local officers.
      They know the data of people who migrated to the US in the past. If they don’t know them, they can suggest you other helpful sources for your quest.

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